Back to the future on the MB Herald
Canadian MB Communications Strategy
Breakout Session #2 – October 22, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.
In 1961, the Canadian Conference gathered and issued both a mandate and created a mechanism to “educate and edify…, to inspire and inform…, to criticize our vices and credit our virtues” as a denominational family. This desire for connectivity and communication across a growingly diverse constituency gave birth to the MB Herald.
Fifty four years later, the executive board is again seeking input on the values and the vision that undergird our communication strategy going into the future. But in some ways, you have to go backwards and assess where you have been before you can go forward (Back to the Future reference fully intended on Oct. 21, 2015!).
The executive board is asking for ongoing input around questions like “How does communication build community and identity?” and “What tools are the best mechanisms to accomplish these objectives?” This morning, a group of some 90 people gathered in the sanctuary at Westwood Community Church in advance of the board of faith and life’s biennial Study Conference to provide the board with feedback on these important questions.
Earlier this fall, the executive board invited 6P Marketing to conduct a thorough analysis of the needs, wants and preferences of the constituency with regards to not just the MB Herald and print publications, but all potential forms of content creation and delivery.
What was presented at this morning’s 9:30 AM session was intriguingly resonant with the heartbeat and the opinions expressed in 1961.
Firstly, the survey uncovered sense of engagement that is very real and very deep. It was clear from the results that Canadian MBs want to continue to experience a shared sense of community and robust theological dialogue that informs and shapes our lives as disciples. This is in some ways a hard thing to quantify and even harder to create, but that it exists and can be built upon is an incredible gift that we need to wisely steward going forward.
Secondly, the survey highlighted that people are looking for a uniquely Canadian blend of content. They want their publications to express both a diversity of voices but also a uniquely Mennonite Brethren perspective on real issues that face us in complex times. There is a desire to explore not only the successes and moments worthy of celebration, but also to weep with those who weep as we share stories of struggles. There is a sense of shared empathy and emotional connectivity that our communications play that binds us together as a national family.
Forums for conversations and community building are sometimes perceived as absent or infrequent, but it seemed from the feedback given and the high level of engagement in the room this morning that there was a strong mandate given to the executive board and the staff of the communications team to continue to explore how best we can tell the story of God’s work in us without it degenerating into a commercial for head office.
One participant helpfully suggested that “if we are going to produce content, we better have something unique and useful to say” and it appears from the session this morning, that we most certainly do.
—Brad Sumner is lead pastor at Jericho Ridge Community Church in Langley, B.C., and is currently having trouble locating good coffee in suburban Winnipeg. Suggestions are welcome on Twitter @bdsumner